On the Falcons’ first play of the game against the Eagles last Thursday, tight end Logan Paulsen committed a false start penalty - the first of a staggering 15 penalties in the 18-12 loss to open the 2018 season.
Atlanta’s 15 penalties were tops in the league in Week 1. Pittsburgh had 12 while Cleveland, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Oakland all committed 11.
“I was surprised we had so many, to be honest with you,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday.
Flags were flying all around the league.
“There were 255 penalties assessed during the opening weekend of the 2018 NFL season,” noted longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin in a tweet. “That's the second-most flag-filled weekend since 2007. There were an average of 15.9 penalties for 140.8 yards assessed per game last weekend.”
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The Falcons committed a variety of penalties, but the procedural penalties were troubling. The Falcons had five procedural penalties that they believe can easily be corrected.
The Falcons, who have an officiating crew at all of their practices, figure they can fix their penalty issue quickly. But they still don’t know what to do about defensive tackle Grady Jarrett’s roughing the passer penalty.
“When you go back to look at them, the one with Grady (Jarrett) that’s one that they’re now calling,” Quinn said. “So the hit on the quarterback, Grady and I just had that conversation, we’ve got to get a way so they can hit and at the last second, move. It’s going to be challenging when you’re going full speed one way and hitting, and how do I change and get off course.”
Jarrett thought his hit on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was textbook-form tackle.
“I don’t know what else I could do,” Jarrett said.
Quinn is talking with his defensive linemen and assistant coaches to figure out a drill to help them when they have a shot at the quarterback.
“Pile-driving the guy down, that was certainly not the case...on that play,” Quinn said.
While the Falcons have a legitimate gripe with the call on Jarrett, other penalties were just blatant bad football.
Eric Saubert’s face-mask violation, Ryan Schraeder’s clipping on defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, rookie Foye Oluokun’s roughing the kicker, defensive end Takkarist McKinley’s defensive offside and lining up on the neutral zone were some of the really bad penalties in the game.
Last season, Seattle led the league with 148 penalties. The Falcons ranked 20th with 102 penalties while Carolina had the fewest with 83.
There were four players with two penalties against the Eagles - Schraeder, Saubert, Oluokun and cornerback Desmond Trufant.
“I agreed with the one on the back side with Schraeder,” Quinn said. “Didn’t necessarily (agree) on the holding call to his side...we have to get those (penalties) way down.”
The referees at practice tend to help with the procedural issues and blatant violations, like Saubert’s face mask.
“When we see those at practice we throw (the penalty flag),” Quinn said. “Often times at practice it seems like there are more procedural ones, it was an offsides or the alignment wasn’t right. You don’t generally see the facemasks ones because he was going down to tackle a guy and where (Eric) Saubert grabbed him.”
Saubert, a backup tight end and second-year player from Drake, played well on special teams last season.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and make a play,” Saubert said. “There was nothing intentional or anything by any means. As a team, we are trying to play penalty free football. The effort was there, but the technique could have probably been better.”
Trufant was called for defensive holding and defensive pass interference.
“Sometimes it’s just part of the game,” Trufant said. “Sometimes you can’t control it and some of them you can control it. At the end of the day, we just play hard and not try to put it in their hands.”
The practice referees will crack down on the violators in practice and hopefully that will carry over into the games.
“Where the natural reaction in the past might have been ‘oh why did you throw it’, but you grabbed him,” Quinn said. “It helps a lot on OPI (offensive pass interference), defensive holding, DPI (defensive pass interference), those are the ones that you see the most,” Quinn said. “You may not see the ones that generate from the contact, the facemask or the Jarrett one, but if we can get those other ones better I think that would help.”
The game against the Eagles may been a statistical outlier.
The Falcons know they must cut down on their penalties, too.
“It is going to happen,” free safety Ricardo Allen said. “Some of the penalties can be on both sides. Some should have been called, and some shouldn’t have been called…. We have to address the style of play. We know that there are going to be penalties, and we just have to minimize them when it is on crucial downs.”
THE 15 PENALTIES AGAINST THE EAGLES
Ryan Schraeder – clipping and offensive holding.
Foye Oluokun – roughing the kicker, false start.
Desmond Trufant – defensive holding, defensive pass interference.
Takkarist McKinley – Defensive offside, neutral zone infraction.
Grady Jarrett – roughing the passer.
Eric Saubert – face mask.
Matt Ryan – Intentional grounding.
Damontae Kazee – Illegal block above the waist.
Robert Alford – illegal contact.
Logan Paulsen – false start.
Brooks Reed – defensive offside.
Deante Burton – offensive holding.